Chapter 9: Black Betty
Morning came an' Joseph was up early doin the chores an' feedin, an' Mandy was right there with 'im. They got done, went to have breakfast, an' Joseph lit out for town. Mandy wanted to go too, but 'e told 'er that it'd be better for 'er to stay home today, cause there's a lot of strife in town. She didn't know what that strife stuff was, but it didn't sound good, so she agreed to stay home. Sally explained to 'er what it was, an' she decided she made the right choice, stayin home this time. Paw promised 'er 'e'd get some hard candy with the money that 'e got from the eggs, since she missed out yesterday. By the time 'e got to town, it was goin on nine o'clock. He checked the train station, but the train had already arrived, an' the officer didn't know if Peter was on it or not. Well: Joseph asked. Did anybody get off? Yea, a feller got off alright, with a lady. Fancy lookin lady. They headed to the motel, yonder. What'd 'e look like? Did 'e wear low hangin guns, kinda like mine? Two of 'em like this, only fancier? Maybe they look like silver? He wore low fancy guns alright. An' 'e was kinda mean lookin. Kinda made me nervous. Sounds like Peter alright, did 'e say anything? No, they just walked over to the motel. Ok, thanks. He headed to the motel, to see if they checked in, an' they had, but left soon after takin their bags up. Probably to the café, 'e thought. He checked there, but 'e didn't see Peter. He walked out on the boardwalk, an' seen 'im talkin to Patrick Baxter. He headed that way, steppin fast. He knew if Peter knew how Patrick was, Patrick wouldn't be walkin much longer. Peter Cates! He yelled. Peter spun around with 'is pistol in hand, ready to fire. He laughed an' went on over to 'im, an' they greeted each other as always. Patrick shut right up when 'e seen Joseph comin over. How 're things here Joseph? Oh, they're doin ok I reckon. How was the trip? It was good as can be I s'pose, ridin a bumpy train. Say, who's this woman I heard about? Well now, News travels fast in this town, I see. Oh no, the officer at the train station told me ya got off with a lady. Fancy one. Yea, she's fancy alright. She's over to the café, eatin. Well, let's go, I wanna meet 'er. They left Patrick standin, an' headed back to the café to meet this fancy lady. Patrick tells me Josephine's out to your place visitin, an' helping with Penelope. Yea, well, ya can't believe everything ya here from Patrick Baxter. He's a weasel, an' I told 'im if 'e so much as touched Josephine, I'd slap 'im down a few times. Why's that? We'll talk about it later. First I wanna meet this fancy lady of yours. Oh no, she ain't "mine". She's just kinda runnin round with me. Oh, I see. Well, I still wanna meet 'er. They went in the café an' Peter introduced 'is "friend" to Joseph. This is Betty. Black Betty they call 'er in Kansas City. How do ma'am? This is my little brother, the law man. Marshal Joseph Cates. U.S. marshal. It's a pleasure, I'm sure marshal Cates. Oh please, call me Joseph. Ok, Joseph. Nice to meet you. You'll be comin out to the farm today, wont ya Peter? An' your friend Miss Betty too, of course. Yea, we'll ride out to see everybody, but we'll be stayin in town while we're here. But Peter, we got plenty room out there. Nonsense. We'll stay right here. I never liked livin out in the sticks like that no how, an' Betty here ain't never spent a night in the woods in 'er life. I see. Well, Sally plans a big supper for ya, so let's load up, I got the wagon down by the general store. We can take that, an' I'll bring ya back to town later. But first, I gotta sell them eggs, an' get Mandy some hard candy. How is that little tom boy, anyway? Ah she's growin like a weed. You won't even recognize 'er. I bet not. I think she was let's see, three I believe last time I seen 'er. Yea, an' she's five now. An' smart as a whip. She must get that from 'er mother. Ah, she gets it from both of us. Peter loaded up with Black Betty, an' Joseph went in the store to sell 'is eggs an' get Mandy's hard candy. Sorry marshal Cates. The town agreed that we'd not do business with ya till ya put your sister back in jail. What? That's right marshal. Sorry, I just can't do it. The whole town ain't doin business with us? That's right. We all agreed. After glancin outside, Joseph responds; Well, I tell ya what. Come over here. When 'e gets there Joseph says; see that lady out there? Yea. Well, that's Black Betty. See the man she's with? Yea. Well, that's my brother Peter. He's in town? Yep, right there. Now, do ya wanna do business with me, or my brother? Penny a piece, just like always. How much candy did ya say ya needed? Two cents worth should do. Marshal, I'd appreciate it if ya didn't say anything to nobody bout this. Not to worry. I ain't gonna tell a soul. Soon as 'e stepped out on the boardwalk, 'e told Peter; you won't believe this Peter Cates; in a voice 'e wanted to be heard all over town; but this town's boycottin us. They want Penelope back in jail, so they all decided to not do business with us anymore till we put 'er back in jail. Let's go to my place. We'll come back later when it's more sociable. They rode out as the towns folk watched. Everybody knew Peter Cates, or at least knew of 'im, an' feared 'im. He had a reputation all over Missouri, an' farther. One that said ya just don't wrong this man, an' live long. The town was quiet as a church house mouse when they rode through, an' stayed that way for a good amount of time after they was gone. On the road Peter asked what the commotion was all about. Well, it's a long story. Sally an' I just couldn't bare to see Penelope in jail bein with child an' all. His face was red when 'e said this, because a strange woman was amongst 'em. But 'e said it anyway. He had to let Peter know everything. The men we brought 'er in with made a big fuss about 'er gettin special treatment an' everything to the sheriff. An' they were herrassin 'er when she 'as there, so I asked Judge Parker, an' 'e let us take 'er out to the farm to stay till the trial. But I gotta keep a lock on 'er door at night. Course, I ain't worried bout 'er runnin off. She ain't goin anywhere. She cries a lot Peter. Sally an' Josephine try to keep 'er spirits up, but it's hard, knowin she might hang. I magine it is brother. I bet when she sees you she'll perk right up. How long's it been since ya seen 'er, anyway? Well, best I can recollect, it's been near four years. Maybe more. It'll be good to be around family for a change. Livin in Kansas City, there ain't nothin but fightin an' shootin, an' well, cards an' women. He poked Betty, which made 'er giggle at 'im.
When they got to the farm, everybody was on the porch waitin for 'em to come up the drive. Mandy was the first to run out to the wagon, an' Peter grabbed 'er up an' hugged her real big, an' she giggled an' hugged 'im back. She remembered her uncle from another town. They all got out of the wagon, an' went to the porch, an' Joseph introduced Betty to everybody, while Peter was getting 'is family hugs from all the women, an' shakin Johns hand. Well, let's go in; Sally said; there's coffee on, an' dinner's almost ready. Josephine's been learnin how to cook again, an' she's doin real good. Peter, she's makin a big roast for supper tonight, but we have a ham goin for dinner. I knew you'd be starving when ya got here, just like Joseph always is, an' John. Peter looked at 'is brother an' said; she ain't changed a bit, has she. Nope. I don't figure she ever will, either. When they were all sittin in the livin room drinkin coffee, the conversation started headin toward Penelope, an' the trial, but Sally quickly changed it, because they didn't like talkin bout this kinda stuff round Mandy. There's plenty time tonight to talk bout things like that. But we'll be gone tonight Betty said. It don't matter. When that talk needs talkin, Peter can go out with Joseph an' John, an' they can discuss it out in the barn, or someplace else, but not here, an' not now. Sorry Sally; Peter said. I'll walk with John, an' Joseph. Let's go boys. They headed out to the barn while the women folk talk amongst themselves of whatever women folk talk about. Gossip, I magine. Or cookin, or sewin, or more gossip maybe.
The boys went to the barn to explain the trial an' things that happened to Peter, so 'e'd know what to expect when 'e got back to town. Peter started by askin John. What happened John? I hear ya lost Margaret, an' the girls. Yea, I did Peter. They killed all of 'em. Joseph was chasin one bunch of the men, while I was chasin two that headed east in that gully. By the time 'e reached the house, they'd done killed my family. Butchered 'em, they did. Sorry to hear that John. Thanks. Was Penelope with 'em when they did it? I don't think she was, to be truthful. But we just can't be absolutely sure about who she was with, or when. An' they killed Jack Becker, an' 'is folks. An' the kids there too. An' it sure looks like she just went off with 'em, on 'er own. I know it's hard to believe Peter, but it sure looks that way. It don't look good for 'er, does it Joseph. No, it sure don't, but we can't see lettin 'er stay in jail till she has that baby. I agree there, but what about the town? Ya think they might try somethin stupid? I doubt it Peter. There ain't a lot of nerve in that town, except for the sheriff. An' there's Jake Hendrix, but 'e ain't gonna do anything. Only reason 'e ain't scared, is cause 'e's kinda simple. Good ol' boy though. Preacher's brother. Well, what about Patrick Baxter? Ain't 'e standin with ya on this? She's 'is sister in-law. I know she is, but 'e's standin with the town. Joseph, she ain't gonna get a fair trial in this town. There ain't no way she'll be treated fair. I been wonderin bout that myself. I'll ask Judge Parker tomorrow, if it might pay to have the trial in another town. I think it might pay. That is, if 'e'll let us take it to another town. Let's just hope 'e does. Yea, an' let's keep the prayers goin too. Good thinking; John said, an' let's hope they get answered. Yea. Well, let's go see if dinner's ready. Good idea, I'm bout half starved.
They went inside, an' the ladies were just sittin the table for dinner. Good timin; Peter said. Nah, just a good smeller. They laughed an' sit down for the dinner Josephine made special for their guests. Oh my, but that ham smells good. An' did ya make them biscuits too? Yep, I made it all. Have some of these tators Peter. I'll leave ya some Joseph, but not too many. Long as ya leave me enough is all I ask. Course, ya might watch out for Mandy here. She's a tator eatin gal now. That's right; she said. I'll eat 'em any way ya cook 'em. Specially fried. Peter asked; Sally still make that fried chicken like she use to? Yep, she sure does. Oh, Uncle Peter; Mandy remembered. We're gonna have a picnic tomorrow, an' you an' Miss Betty are gonna be there too. An' maw's gonna have fried chicken, cause paw's gonna butcher three of 'em today. They'll be fresh fresh. An' I'll show ya how to catch cat fish. Heh heh, well, if your maw's fryin chicken, I'll sure be there, an' Miss Betty will be too. But catchin catfish. I think I might show ya a trick or two on that subject. I don't know, I know all the good holes to fish in. Better watch out Peter, she knows how to catch 'em. She caught a four pounder last year. Yep, an' paw has some of them store bought fish hooks. Well little lady, we'll see tomorrow who catches the most fish. Ok, but they have to be catfish. Catfish it is ma'am. They got dinner over with, an' visited till Joseph, John, an' Mandy went out to butcher those three chickens. Then Joseph an' Mandy did the evening chores, an' then they all ate a fantastic supper. That Josephine is getting to be quite the cook; Peter said after 'e stuffed 'imself with the roast, tators, an' pie. She thanked 'im an' played with her hair all embarrassed like. Well, we better be headin back to town; 'e said. I got the wagon hooked up an' ready. They headed to town, an' this time, Mandy went along for the ride. She slept most of the way back home, however, an' Joseph carried 'er to 'er bed. He said a prayer on 'er behalf this time.
The next morning when they was doin chores, they seen the wagon comin up the road, an' Mandy met 'em half way up the drive. Did ya bring a fishin pole; she asked right off. Coarse I did. I brought one for Miss Betty too. An' one for John, just in case 'e ain't got one. Good. I'm ready to go right now, but maw said I gotta eat breakfast first. Did you eat breakfast yet Uncle Peter? Nope. We came out here to eat good food. Well, Aunt Josephine is cookin it, so it'll be good. Maw's a good teacher. An' she knows how to cook most anything. Yea, I know she can. I been eatin 'er cookin since afore you 'as even born. Did yer paw save them chicken livers like I asked 'im to? Yep, we got 'em in a jar. All three of 'em. Well, that ain't much, but it'll do I s'pose. Ya don't eat them nasty things do ya? Oh no. I use 'em for catchin catfish. Whaaat? Yep. They're the best catfish bait I know of. Well, I'll be dickered. I only use worms, an' grasshoppers. Ya dig 'em yourself? My paw gets 'em for me. Sometimes I find 'em under leaves when it rains though. Yep, that's a good place for worms, in wet leaves. Ya can find 'em when yer maw throws out ol' vegetables too. She never throws 'em out. We feed 'em to the hogs. Oh.
When they got to the house, Joseph was waitin there holdin a bucket of fresh milk. Houdy; he said. Ya made it just in time for breakfast. I think they're makin bacon an' eggs in there today. Sounds wonderful; Betty said. Well, if Sally had a hand in it, I know they will be. She's mighty fussy when it comes to cookin eggs. He helps Mandy an' Betty down, an' reminds Mandy that she forgot to bring up the eggs she gathered. Soon as she heard, she took off like a rabbit to get them eggs, an' met the others in the house. Just like Joseph said, them eggs were perfect. So was the bacon, an' biscuits. An' they had home made jelly that Sally made from the strawberry patch. After they got done eatin, John, Joseph, an' Peter went to the front porch to smoke, an' drink coffee, while the women all pitched in an' cleaned up the kitchen, so they could start fryin that chicken for the picnic they had planned for the day. Mandy got the chore of mixin up the biscuit dough, while Josephine put together two cherry pies, an' Penelope peeled tators, while Sally started frying the chicken. Even Betty pitched in an' fried the tators after Penelope got 'em peeled. All in all, it was a busy morning for them ladies, but they all enjoyed every minute of it cause it'd been quite awhile since the three ladies had the chance to visit an' cut up an' cook like this. An' none of 'em could remember the last time they all had a real picnic with all four siblings together. Considerin the fact that Penelope was lookin at hangin, this was a good day for all. For even if she did hang, it'd be in another five or six months, maybe seven, not right away, so their tension was eased for at least awhile. It was relaxin, an' that's just what they all needed. No towns folk, no problems, just family, good food, good friends, fishin, an' a picnic. Joseph an' Sally had a spot they had picnics in the past, an' it was perfect. Right by the river, under a big ol' oak tree. No weeds to pester 'em, an' hardly any bugs to tend to. Sides, Mandy liked catchin bugs sometimes, cause she could use 'em for catfish bait. The grasshoppers she could anyway. Them big green ones an' brown ones were best. While the ladies were fixin the picnic lunch, the men went to the barn to load up the fishin tackle an' poles. Joseph brought out the chicken livers, an' Peter said they looked just right. He should get a nice 'on with these. Well Peter, if Mandy gets any of them big green or brown grasshoppers, ya might have some tough competition. Ok Joseph, we'll have to see. They talked about this, an' they talked about that, an' finally the time came to load up the people an' head to the river for that picnic an' fishin contest.
When they got to the river, they had about an hour afore time to eat, so the ladies had time to relax an' visit, while Mandy an' the men took out to find the best fishin holes. Coarse, Joseph an' Mandy had the advantage, so 'e told Peter an' John where some good holes were. Meanwhile, Mandy found plenty big brown grasshoppers, so she didn't need to worry bout havin to put a slimy worm on 'er store bought hooks. She told Peter that the hole she was fishin in was really big, an' she would share it with 'im, if 'e wanted 'er to, so 'e decided 'e'd take 'er up on that offer. He'd taken a liken to this little tom boy the first time 'e met 'er five years ago. She was the closest thing 'e figured 'e'd ever have to havin a little girl, or boy, of 'is own. The ladies were talkin an' laughin bout this an' that, an' watched the others fish. They had wagers on who'd catch the first fish, the biggest fish, an' the most fish. An' finally, they had to decide who was gonna cook them fish if they caught any. Sally gave in, an' said she'd cook 'em, but Joseph had to clean 'em. Well sir, Mandy caught the first fish, but it was too small to count. She still got a round of applause from everybody else. She also caught the next one, an' it was a fine pan sized catfish. John caught the biggest fish. It was about a five or six pounder. He also caught the most fish. He caught six all together. Mandy caught three keepers an' that little one. Joseph caught a nice one, an' Peter, well, we wont heckle 'im. Well, maybe we will, just a little. He didn't catch anything but a sun burn. Everybody got a laugh about that one. All in all, the picnic was a huge success. The rest of that day, an' weekend was good too. Monday came, an' Peter planned to ride out an' talk to Joseph alone. John had decided to head back to Kentucky today, so Joseph rode into town with 'im to see 'im off on the train, an' to go see Judge Parker while 'e was in town, since 'e missed 'im last time 'e tried. Peter went with 'im an' the judge was in 'is office. Morning boys; 'e said. Morning judge. We come to ask ya a favor, or at least a question. Sure gents, what is it? Well sir, we 'as wonderin if there might be a chance to take this trial to another town. Why Joseph? This town is capable of holdin a trial, same as any other. Yea, but we feel our sister won't get a fair trial in this town. Too many people are upset that she's out to the farm, an' we just don't think the sheriff's gonna be able to find any "unbiased" people for the jury. Well, sorry boys. The sheriff's already found the jury, an' I'm gonna have to refuse your request. Sorry boys. I don't guess you'd tell me who's on that jury. No sir, I can't do that Peter. Joseph here knows that, an' you should too. Besides, I don't even know who they are. I had to try judge. I know ya did. Every thing's already set boys. I can't just drop it all an' send the trial someplace else, I just can't do it. I'm real sorry boys. Well, thanks for the time judge. Any time boys. An' Joseph. Yea judge? Penelope, she doin ok out to your place? Yea, she's doin ok, thanks for askin. Ain't been any trouble out there, has they? Not to speak of. I confronted the town bout that meetin they had, an' they seemed to listen to me when I told 'em you said she could be there. Town still boycottin ya? Not when I tell 'em Peter's with me. Well, I been tellin everybody to drop the boycottin, an' let's not have any killin in town, ok Peter? I know bout yer reputation, same as everybody else. I ain't here for that judge, I'm here for my family. Good. I'll see ya boys at the trial. We'll be there judge. They left the judges office, an' headed out to the farm. They did some heavy talkin on the way out.
Plans had to be made, an' decisions had to be known, on both sides. Well Joseph, what do ya plan, in case the jury finds 'er guilty? I don't rightly know. I have a sworn duty to uphold the law Peter. If the judge says hang her, I very well have to do it, as much as it hurts, even to think of it. Now come on Joseph. You can't hang your own sister. If I have to, I have to. No way around it short of runnin from the law myself. An' I don't plan to do that, not ever. So you're sayin if the judge says hang your own sister, you'll do it instead of runnin a little bit. No, but I'll do my duty, if 'e says do it, I will, instead of runnin for the rest of my life. Cause ya know as well as me, that if I run with 'er instead of hangin 'er, they'll hang us both. I just ain't gonna put Sally an' Mandy in that situation Peter. I ain't gonna. Well Joseph, what if I run with 'er? I can't let ya do that Peter, you know that. Yea, I'm realizing a lot lately. What's that s'posed to mean? It means ya don't give a damn about our sister when it comes to doin your "duty". I'm swore to it Peter. I have no choice. I swore on a bible, for Christ sake. I think we need to sit down with Penelope an' see what she says. Not on your life Joseph. Ya know as well as me that she'll say do the right thing. An' the right thing for you ain't rightly the right thing at all. At least not for me. An' damn sure not for Penelope. You're too damn bull headed Joseph. No, you're the one who's bull headed. No, I ain't. I want my sister to live, an' it sure looks to me like ya want the opposite. I ain't gonna take words like that from you or anybody else Peter. Not one person in this world loves that girl more 'n me, an' you know it. Alright, let's just drop this afore one of us gets killed, an' it ain't gonna be me. They were both lookin at the other with their evilest look possible. Just one more thing Peter. What is it? Did she send ya a wire? Did she tell ya she was kidnapped? Tell me now, an' tell me the truth. Did she? Or didn't she? No, she didn't. Dammit all. Not another word was said till they rode up to the farm. They stopped at the barn, to put away the horses, an' Mandy done spotted 'em. She was right out there helpin get feed for 'em, an' puttin away blankets an' bridals. She asked; did Mr. Weston get on the train ok paw? He sure did. Was there lots of smoke? Lots an' lots. I had to run from it, it was so thick. Hi uncle Peter. Maw has coffee in there. Hi there young 'on. I'm ready for some, an' some pleasant visitin too. She started to tell 'im bout how Josephine burnt the bacon, but her paw cut her off. Run along in the house Mandy, an' tell yer maw we're here. ok paw. She walked back to the house, but you could see the sadness in her. Peter; Joseph reminded. Let's not say anything to the girls about what we talked about on the way out. We'll talk about it later, when Mandy ain't awake. Ok, I'll respect your word in your house, but only for the women sake. When they got in the house, Joseph sit by Mandy an' told 'er 'e was sorry for snappin at 'er. An' that they had an argument on the way out, an' that was why. She said it was ok. Then she proceeded to tell Peter all about how her aunt Josephine burnt the bacon to a crisp, which got a laugh from everybody except Josephine. Specially when she picked a black char up an' showed it to all. The day was good an' the visitin was good too. But Peter had to get back to town, cause Betty was planning to go back to Kansas City. Sally asked 'im if 'e wouldn't stay out at the farm, but 'e insisted 'e was gonna stay in town. Joseph told 'im to go ahead an' take the horse 'e rode out, an' 'e'd get it later, which 'e did.